Rachel Homan getting her mojo back as Canada runs win streak to 3

After starting with 3 losses, Ottawa team closing in on playoffs

Rachel Homan getting her mojo back as Canada runs win streak to 3
From left to right: Canada's Joanne Courtney, Rachel Homan, Lisa Weagle and Emma Miskew celebrate their third straight victory on Monday in Pyeongchang. © Wang Zhao/Getty Images

By Devin Heroux, CBC Sports

Rachel Homan, Emma Miskew, Joanne Courtney and Lisa Weagle never stopped believing. Now, after three straight wins, they have their swagger back at the Olympics.

"This is the team we can be," said Homan. "Everyone is rising up to the Canadian challenge and we know we'll need our best down the stretch."

Canada was dominant in its latest win, an 8-3 victory over a strong Japanese team on Monday in Pyeongchang. They were focused and having fun on the ice — something that was missing early on. 

"We made a conscious decision to enjoy this experience and not put pressure on ourselves because it's so easy to feel the pressure here and not enjoy the moment," Miskew said. 

For the past two years this team has been working tirelessly on and off the ice to become the best competitors they could be. The team spends countless hours throwing rocks daily, working on the technical and strategic aspects of the game. In a lot of ways, that's the easy part.

The hard part? Overcoming the mental breakdowns during intense moments. 

They brought in coach Adam Kingsbury, who has a sport psychology background, to challenge them to be better in the most pressure-packed moments.

They mapped out everything over the past year. At this time exactly one year ago, this Olympic pursuit began. Homan and her team came up with clutch shots to win Canada's national women's event, the Scotties Tournament of Hearts, in dramatic fashion. They followed that up with the first-ever undefeated world championship win. Everything was going along just fine.

Then, after losing the first game of the Olympic trials, in their hometown of Ottawa no less, Homan reeled off win after win to clinch a spot in South Korea. 

They rolled into the Games brimming with confidence — it was all going according to plan. 

But what happens when it doesn't? It didn't early on in the Olympics. There were the three straight losses (two of them in extra ends). The pressure was ratcheted up. The critics were lurking. 

Homan's team stayed calm, had a players only meeting, got a call from Toronto Maple Leafs — and Olympic gold medal-winning — coach Mike Babcock and have rattled off three straight wins. 

"We're going to need to win out to be in a good spot," Homan said. "We don't need any other teams to help us though. We just need to play our game."

Eyeing a playoff spot

What a difference a couple of days make. Homan's team was at the bottom looking up just 48 hours ago. Now they're in the thick of the playoff fight with three games left. 

With a 3-3 record, the team controls its own playoff destiny, with games against China, Great Britain and the Olympic Athletes from Russia left. Win, and they're in.

"We feel like we're getting some momentum now but we still need to be giving everything we have into every single shot," Courtney said.

This team feeds off momentum. When it's good, it's really good for Team Homan - and they know it. 

"I think we've found our confidence and we're back to the way we know we can be. We're back to that swagger and back to the team we are," Weagle said. 

Miskew points to previous experiences to remind them what they're capable of as the playoffs near.

"That team we know we can be is normally a second-half team. As we learn the ice in the first half, we get sharp for the second half and I think that's what we're building towards," she said.

"It's not about how you start, it's how you finish."

Frustrated but never panicked

When the team needed to the most, they leaned on everything they've been working on over the past year — staying calm and patient when things don't go as planned. 

That was abundantly obvious in their thrilling comeback win against Switzerland on Monday when the team was down 8-6 late in the game and found a way to win.

"We were frustrated but we weren't panicking. We felt that 0-3 wasn't the record we were playing at. We felt we were making more shots than that," Miskew said.

They'll need to continue to stay the course — but they're back to being Team Homan.

"This is the team that can make the playoffs. This is the team we can be. We just tweaked a couple of things, a few communication mistakes we were making and it's working now," said Homan.

"We're doing everything we can."